With “Ouistreham”, Juliette Binoche fades behind the role of Marianne Winckler, a writer immersed in the precarious maintenance workers of Caen. The prolific actress fought for Florence Aubenas’ book to become a film, driven by the need to highlight these invisible everyday people. Interview with an actress with an unparalleled investment.
Juliette Binoche is a woman of convictions, an actress ready to do anything to see a story close to her heart come to life on the big screen. If the autobiographical and documentary book The Quai de Ouistreham by Florence Aubenas became a feature film directed by Emmanuel Carrère, at the cinema on January 12, it is because the actress fought for. The actress managed to convince the journalist to give up her rights. The result is a film in which Juliette Binoche gives of herself to non-professional actresses, themselves precarious workers struggling daily with impossible schedules and a dehumanizing lack of recognition. She plays Marianne Winckler, a successful writer undercover with the maintenance workers of the ferries that connect England. The actress is magnificent in her naturalness, strength and commitment in this social drama freely adapted from the reporter’s experience. Juliette Binoche has left aside the superstar mask to give herself entirely to her playing partners. While she is touring with the greatest, returning from several months in the United States where she has chained projects, the actress that Hollywood envies us appears more determined than ever to revalorize the human.
You worked for Ouistreham see the day. What was so important to you in this story?
Juliette Binoche : When reading the book, I said to myself that we should try to convince Florence Aubenas to make a film of this experience. Her book is about a woman who meets people, who discovers the schedules very early in the morning, very late at night, the fact of running from right to left, of having trouble finishing her weeks… and who times acquaintance with something stronger than cronyism: this feeling of belonging to a family united in survival. I think this is an important topic right now. We are on the verge of a major change in society, with climate issues in particular. Solidarity must flourish. People need to be reminded that including someone invisible means being more aware of our actions. Looking at the other, asking a question, creating a human bond avoids the dehumanization of relationships, imposed by our rhythms and our habits. It is important to remember that we are not alone. This movie was meant to be.
Even if there are men, the film focuses more on the fate of women…
Juliette Binoche : We show the stories common to our societies of these women without a diploma, who have just divorced or who are left after raising their children. Suddenly, they have to turn the situation around because society does not protect them.
Ouistreham points out the invisibilization of these women in the shadows. Have you ever experienced a form of lack of recognition?
Juliette Binoche : It’s difficult, because as an actress, I have been recognized in my work. There are obviously things that are not known, but the real satisfaction of recognition is knowing that you have given the best of yourself. This calls into question the external recognitions that we believe we need. The real needs for recognition belong to childhood, when one has not been seen by one’s parents. It takes time to accept it, to overcome this need, to be cured. The journey can be expressed in different ways, by wanting to be loved all the time, by doing everything to be a good student, or conversely by being a dunce to get noticed. When we talk about professions not recognized by society, it is in fact that many people are not aware of others. These are jobs of humility, which may seem hard from the outside, but which people are very happy to exercise. It is their way of being able to express their love, their commitment to something more important than themselves. It’s almost a work of self-sacrifice, which expresses the importance of the other. It is another level of consciousness.
“The real satisfaction of recognition is knowing that you have given the best of yourself”
Like your character, did you need to make yourself very small to integrate this environment, to make room for your partners on screen?
Juliette Binoche : The part that stayed with me the most is the passage of the book on the invisible. We rarely, especially as an actor, experience this invisibility. With the masks, it changes a little. It’s a kind of vacation. At the same time, when we start to age, we are no longer seen in the same way, we also become invisible. It’s interesting to question yourself and live it to understand others. Here, the theme is so strong that we forget ourselves. This is the strength of the subject and the strength of these girls. I put myself at their service to help them be as comfortable as possible with the camera, so that they can tap into emotions that they are not necessarily used to expressing, that they understand that losing control is a gift from them. For Hélène, who plays Christelle the main role, it was a test. Emmanuel Carrère was afraid that she might be fed up and leave the set. I never had this fear. I was with her, determined to help and support her in all situations. I understood that if she sulked, she had to be left alone so that she had the right to prepare. In general, it happened in a harmonious, joyful way. All these girls together, it’s a kind of concert punctuated by fun!
What did you learn from these women?
Juliette Binoche : They say what they think and what they feel. That’s what touched me the most. They are true and that is the finest human quality. There is a freedom in their speech and their feelings. I liked living it with them.